The aim of this essay is to describe some of the different purposes of assessment in social work and provide some examples. The essay will begin by introducing and defining assessment in a social work context. It will then move on to describe some different examples of assessment in social work. Finally the essay will conclude with an overview of assessment and the importance placed upon it in social work. Milner and O’Byrne, 2009 and Bartlett, 1970 (see Parker and Bradley 2010, p. 1) have acknowledged assessment as a key task in social work practice.
This is further recognised in Government Policy aimed at social work education in the teaching, learning and assessment requirements. Education providers must be able to demonstrate that all students undertake specific learning and assessment in the key areas of assessment, planning, intervention and review (Department of Health, 2002, p. 3-4). In order to understand the purpose and be able to carry out a good assessment in social work, it is important to understand what is meant by a social work assessment.
The Cambridge Dictionaries Online definition of assessment states “when you judge or decide the amount, value, quality or importance of something, or the judgment or decision that is made”(www. dictionary. cambridge. org[02/11/12]). The dictionary definition of assessment gives an understanding of the term in relation to making a judgement or evaluation against a standard. In terms of social work however, the definition does not include the human interactive context (see Parker and Bradley, 2010, p. 3).
Parker and Bradley also go on to state that within social work it is the person’s potential for growth and change that is being assessed and not their worth. There are various purposes of assessment in social work which will initially conclude to describe, explain, predict, evaluate and prescribe or suggest methods of intervention (Parker and Bradley, 2010, p. 13). In order to achieve its purpose Parker and Bradley also go on to say that the assessment should be focused, factual and explicit. The examples that will be described in this essay are social work assessments for the purposes of establishing needs, eligibility to services and risk.
An assessment with the purpose of establishing needs will not only consider the circumstances of the individual, but also the wider context of family and community they live in. This is evident when working with children and families, section 17 and Schedule 2 para 3 of the children act 1989 (see Parker and Bradley, 2010, p. 19) provide the responsibility to carry out an assessment of a child considered in need. The Framework for assessment of children in need and their families (Department of Health, Department for Education and Employment, Home Office, 2000, p. 17) is used as an assessment tool to establish need.
The framework provides a systematic approach to fully understand the developmental needs of the child, the capacities of the parents or caregivers and also the family and environmental factors. Eligibility criteria assessments are used for the purpose of determining the allocation of resources and services. The allocation of resources and services are based on matching a service user’s profile of need against a predetermined scale of need and risk. A legal duty to assess needs for community care services is detailed under section 47 of the NHS and Community Care Act 1990 (see Parker and Bradley, 2010, p. 0). The assessment process has been standardised with the introduction of the Single Assessment Process (SAP) which aims to promote not only better care services and outcomes for older people, but to also provide a more effective use of professional resources (Parker and Bradley, 2010). Parker and Bradley (2010, p. 79) describe risk assessments as a process of determining the likelihood of an event happening and its foreseeable consequences, also the interests of those affected by such consequences are balanced against the cost of taking interventive precautions.
Risk assessments are required as part of the SAP process to be included within a care plan, which are required under the Community Care Act 1990. It is important to note that risk assessments are merely a tool to identify risk and not to eliminate them. Commenting on the death of Francesca St Pierre, Dominelli (2009, p. 45) states that her death: … highlights institutional failings even if workers use risk assessment tools to develop individual safety plans, and it exposes how risk assessments and safety procedures do not offer the certainty of safety demanded of them.
Whilst there are various purposes of assessment, assessments are a fundamental part of the social work process. Frameworks for assessments have developed through Government Policy, which include the Framework for assessment of children in need and the Single Assessment Process. The Laming report (2003) (see Parker and Bradley, 2010, p. 2) also places emphasis on the importance of a good assessment; which should be focused, factual and explicit.
Department of Health. , (2002). Requirements for Social Work Training. London: Department of Health. Department of Health, Department of Education and Employment, Home Office. , (2000). Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families. London: The Stationary Office. Dominelli, L. , (2009). Introducing Social Work. Cambridge: Polity Press. Parker, J. , and Bradley, G. , (2010). Social Work Practice: Assessment, Planning, Intervention and Review Third Edition. Exeter: Learning Matters Ltd. http://dictionary. cambridge. org/dictionary/british/assessment? q=assessment [accessed 02/11/12]